Growing up, many people with exceptional ability and multiple talents experience themselves as too different to fit in with ‘normal’ groups.
As adults, some do become the high achievers that Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his book Outliers: The Story of Success [see the post Outliers and developing exceptional abilities.]
But there are many internal barriers to prominence and achievement for gifted and talented people.
Researchers on the psychology of giftedness and gifted adults, have detailed these dynamics, and many are explored on this site, and related ones, especially High Ability.
“They realize they are intense, driven, and complex, but they have been taught that their strong personalities are excessive, too different from the norm, and consequently wrong,” writes Mary-Elaine Jacobsen in her book The Gifted Adult.
She adds, “In a culture that often equates different with wrong, it’s inevitable that gifted adults point a critical finger toward themselves as the source of their discontent: Why can’t I just be like everyone else? Shouldn’t I have outgrown this type of identity crisis by now? Why can’t I (overcome) this nagging sense of urgency? Will I ever feel satisfied? What’s wrong with me?”
Complex and deep thinking
Lesley Sword, Director of Gifted & Creative Services Australia, declares, “It is the combination of complex and deep thinking and rich and intense emotion that produces the gifted persons’ greater potential for high achievement.”
[From her article Psycho-social Needs: Understanding The Emotional, Intellectual and Social Uniqueness Of Growing Up Gifted. See list of articles by Lesley Sword.]
On the Gifted Adults page of her site, she notes: “There is no magic age when giftedness disappears. Gifted children grow into gifted adults with the same unique attributes and life issues.
“However, gifted adults are rarely aware of their giftedness. Some misinterpret their complex and deep way of thinking as ‘craziness’.
“Some mistake their emotional intensity for emotional immaturity or see it as a character flaw. Because they have never been given information to explain what is “normal for gifted” they frequently experience frustration in the world, alienation, anger, self-blame and emptiness.
“Gifted people have characteristics that transcend the boundaries of age, nationality, gender and occupation.”
Some traits and qualities
Here are some of the characteristics she lists, with links I have added to related pages on this site.
* Are you a perfectionist?
* Do you have strong moral convictions?
* Do you have a passion for justice?
* Are you highly sensitive?
* Do you have a great sense of humor?
* Are you intuitive, perceptive or insightful?
* Are you fascinated by words or an avid reader?
* Do you often feel out-of-sync with others?
* Are you very curious or a good problem solver?
* Do you have a vivid imagination?
* Do you often question rules or authority?
* Do you thrive on challenge?
* Do you feel overwhelmed by many interests and abilities?
* Do you love ideas and ardent discussion?
* Do you need periods of contemplation?
* Do you search for meaning in your life?
>> For a longer quiz, see the page Self-tests: giftedness / high ability.
Shannon Lewis, left, Michelle Giron and Haluna Gunterman constituted half of Caltech’s all-female chemical engineering class of 2005.
Jef Raskin, a mathematician, orchestral soloist and composer, professor, bicycle racer, model airplane designer, and pioneer in the field of human-computer interactions, created the Macintosh computer at Apple in the early 1980s.
Both images from the Science page.
Anna Paquin (who won an Oscar at age 11 for The Piano), from my post Anna Paquin and others on realizing multiple talents.
The lower image is from the post Josh Waitzkin: The Art of Learning.